Operation Supply Drop: How Video Games Are Saving Our Army Vets

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chris-littlechild - May 3, 2016

  As we know darn well, video games get a hell of a bad rap from the media. We blame them for any and all evil in this world, from the condom that ripped while Bieber’s mama and papa were getting it on to the mysterious falling hunk o’ plane that landed on the kid’s bedroom in Donnie Darko. All of these terrible misfortunes have a cause, and that cause is video games.  

Them thar games consoles are breeding a new generation of antisocial lazy-asses with terrible eyesight. Or something. They’re causing Koreans to keel over with heart attacks after 73 straight hours of Starcraft. It’s a grim picture, painted usually by some stuffy old bastard who has never actually played a game in his life. Although he’s right about the Starcraft thing.

What the industry, and a craptacular Monday morning in general, needs is a feelgood story. Something like Polygon’s How Games Are Helping Veterans Recover From Injury.

Eric Johnson suffered one hell of a car accident while a private in the U.S. Army. The piece is a long read, but it’s great to see what video games can do when their powers are used for good. Here’s a little of his story:

'He was miserable, a young, active man, in a great deal of pain, suffering from the anxiety of a life turned upside down. During his long recovery, one of the tasks he was given by the doctors was to re-establish use of his right hand. He found that playing video games helped. The doctors, somewhat bemused, allowed him to explore this self-discovered treatment. "Being able to bring my thumb across and hit the stick and hit the buttons helped me," he recalls. "It gave me a goal. I need to get further around the controller. I need to be able to tap the grenade throw or kick with this button."'

 More than that, a young soldier recovering from testicular cancer shared a room with Johnson and they bonded over the freshly-released Final Fantasy VII. ‘The game didn’t do me any specific good as far as physical therapy,’ the soldier remembers, ‘but mentally it created a bond between myself and that friend of mine when we were both going through a really hard time.’

It’s all a little like those nostalgic memories of after-school gaming with buddies we all have, but a lil’ more positive and life-affirming. Good job, video games.

Today, Major Johnson works closely with Operation Supply Drop, a charity that sends games and consoles to soldiers on deployment and those recovering from injuries. My particular favorite story of their work was of the 90-year-old Korea veteran who’d never touched a video game in his life:

‘He looked at me like I was insane, but I said, 'hear me out'. He was de-conditioned. I wanted him to be able to build a bit of strength and exercise. Putting him on the Wii, he was able to exercise without having to go outside, ride a bike, something like that. He was so excited about it. His eyes brightened up. We laughed together. It was good for his mental health, good for his cardio. He didn’t know he was having therapy done. He just thought we were playing games.’

The full piece is pretty darn lengthy, but if you’ve got yourself some time hit Polygon for more.

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